Why blame BJP for Congress mess
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has taken to twitter to blame the Centre for the mess Harish Rawat-led Congress government of Uttarakhand finds itself in. The crisis took place on Friday and Gandhi went to town on Sunday, 48 hours later, saying, “Toppling elected Govts is BJP’s new model of Governance. Congress party will fight their demagoguery with Democracy.” He preceded this message with other posts on the micro-blogging site: “First, Arunachal & now Uttarakhand, these attacks on our Democracy & Constitution reveal the real face of Modi Govt.”
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, who is battling the crisis at Ground Zero, must have felt relieved that his party high command has finally woken up to the crisis in the Himalayan state. For those who follow Gandhi’s twitter handle (OfficeOfRG) closely would vouch that the leader looked absolutely oblivious of the crisis as he preferred sharing his thoughts on his visit to Radha Soami Satsang at Beas with this post - “A big thank you to Babaji and everybody at Radha Soami Satsang Beas.”
He even believed that it would be thoughtful to congratulate the Indian cricket team for their victory against Pakistan at Eden Gardens in Kolkata. More than 12 hours after his cricket post, he finally came out on twitter blaming the BJP for the Constitutional crisis the young state finds itself in. The political turmoil in the state’s Congress was building up for some time and it is to the discredit of the Congress high command that it decided to have an ostrich-like approach to the issue.
On the other hand, it is to the credit of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, a veteran of many battles that he has so far managed to hold his ground and win a crucial reprieve from the Raj Bhawan. State Governor Dr KK Paul has given Rawat time until this coming Monday to prove majority on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. The Chief Minister has been astute enough to maintain a cordial relation with Paul, a seasoned bureaucrat with a clean reputation and who enjoys proximity to the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Now, coming back to the crisis within the party, it was not that the high command was not kept in the loop about the “discontent” among the chief ministerial aspirants in the Congress ranks. Ever since that the party managed to win the 2012 Assembly polls in the state through a wafer-thin majority, the Congress leadership committed one error after another. It first foisted an untested Vijay Bahuguna as Chief Minister of the state.
He was accommodated in Dehradun as his son Saket Bahuguna, now expelled from the party, worked with a real estate major, whose owners were closely linked with the powerful Congress leaders from Haryana. The state was hit by a natural calamity in 2013 and an inept Vijay Bahuguna government failed to rise to the challenge to push ahead relief operations for the distraught people of the state and the distressed tourists affected during the calamity. By the time Bahuguna found his bearings and had brought some semblance of governance in the troubled state, he was replaced by Harish Rawat ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
No wonder the Congress ended up losing all the five Lok Sabha seats in the state. However, Rawat staged a quick comeback and managed to win the crucial Assembly by-polls which followed leading to much heartburn within the state BJP leadership. However, Rawat always realised that his position was fragile, and little wonder he has not moved out of the Bijapur state guest house to the Chief Minister’s residence for the past two years.
He turned the palatial Chief Minister’s bungalow into the VIP guest house hosting the party’s bigwigs from Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel downwards. While Rawat hurtled from one crisis to another including a brush with the Centre on the appointment of state’s Chief Secretary, the Congress High Command in its state of oblivion bothered little, which has today led to a situation where the Gandhi family’s pick Vijay Bahuguna is ready to go with the BJP.
People say that Bahuguna for the past two years sought an appointment with Congress vice-president but to no avail. It reflects poorly on the Congress leadership that it made no efforts to win back veteran leader Satpal Maharaj back in its fold. Maharaj had switched sides after Bahauguna was replaced with Rawat as Chief Minister. Today Maharaj and Bahuguna have joined hands with Harak Singh Rawat, who until a few years ago was a political pariah with his name having figured in a sex scandal.
In the midst of the crisis in the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party would do a great disservice to itself and its electoral fortunes by supporting a government led by a discredited Vijay Bahuguna or a Harak Singh Rawat. The elections in the state are less than a year away. Why should the BJP carry the cross of bringing down the Congress government? Let the Congressmen write the epitaph before the time for burial of the present government is due.
BJP’s central leadership should remember that it has finished it first rank leadership in the state by not respectfully rehabilitating Lok Sabha members Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri and Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, both former chief ministers, or for that matter other MPs from the state like another former Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Garhwal Maharani among the others. The current crop of leaders will not able to counter the shenanigans of Congress rebels and can leave the BJP red-faced later.
(The author is President, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and Consulting Editor, Millennium Post. Views expressed are personal.)